NEDERLAND — We’ve danced around it all season. They’ve been written about, praised by coaches, fans, players and writers. They’ve wowed, they’ve choke-slammed and they’ve racked up a ton of tackles, sacks and assorted other stats.
Why hasn’t the Nederland defensive line gotten featured yet? Well,it’s because I couldn’t think up a good enough nickname.
See, a group this impressive needs a catchy moniker, something that will inspire fear and dread, like the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters. In search of answers, I looked up dominant on Dictionary.com and this is all I found:
Dominant: [dom-uh-nuh nt]; adjective 1. The Nederland defensive line.
That was weird, but no help there. So, what makes up a good nickname? The Houston Texans got a snappy one under Southeast Texas favorite son Wade Phillips in the Bulls On Parade. It’s a song, and it describes their defensive philosophy. Sort of.
Could anything like that work for the foursome of senior defensive end Koby Couron (6-3, 230), junior defensive end De Shawn Washington (6-3, 275), senior defensive tackle Brock Pryor (6-2, 275) and junior defensive tackle Caleb Malveaux (5-10, 300)?
To figure out what makes them tick as a group, we went straight to Nederland head coach Larry Neumann.
“I think they like each other a lot,” Neumann said. “This whole team enjoys each other ‘s company. Those four guys are brothers. They’re talking in between plays. Sometimes, when you’re trying to coach them, it almost makes you angry, because they’re visiting with one another.
“But, what they’re visiting about isn’t off-topic, it’s about football.Most of the time, it’s on track and if it’s not, they get refocused quickly. They’re serious and they’re serious about all four of them playing together as well as they do.”
Hmm, togetherness with a group mentality. In the year of the comic book movie, how about going with something topical like The Avengers?
Nope, that seems too on the nose and could be dated by the time this article goes to press. This group is too good for that. This group’s memory will stick around for a while. A friend of mine, after seeing them in action for the first time, said that they’re basically a college defensive line.
That doesn’t come around very often, so we need to come up with a nickname to stick around too. What about other good movie titles? Maybe the two defensive ends are The Sound and The Fury, while the two tackles are The Ghost and The Darkness. Because both ends rush the passer and make a big hullabaloo while Pryor is his own black hole in the center of that line and Malveaux comes out of nowhere to make big plays all the time.
Still, it feels wrong to break them up even in nickname form, when one of their strengths is functioning all together.
“They’re not looking for individual accolades,” Neumann said.“They like people talking about our defensive group. We have a couple of other guys who get minutes, and there ‘s no division between any of the guys in there. I’ve done this long enough to know it’s not always the case. You don’t always get that and you can still have a good team. But, it’s better when you’ve got it.”
So, we’ve got a solid, tight knit group who likes to wisecrack every now and then? Let’s aim for a little 80’s nostalgia and call them The A-Team. We could even change it up a bit and go with The N-Team (for Nederland) or The D-Team (for the defense).
Couron could be Hannibal, De Shawn is B.A., Pryor is Mad Dog (because, honestly, he plays with a little crazy) and Malveaux could be Face. Thus, we have a group nickname along with individual monikers. It’s catchy and everything.
It’s still missing something, though. It doesn’t quite capture another one of the key attributes of this group. They may get beat individually, but they rarely ever get beaten as a group.
“I don’t know if anyone goes through the year without getting beat some individually,” Neumann said. “But, they’re resilient. I haven’t seen an individual or the line collectively get beat very long against anyone. It has happened, and each individual may tell you what game it was, but it was never something that could be sustained through the entire game yet."
What’s clear is that this Nederland defensive line, and with it the entire defensive unit, is having a special season. In the past five seasons, Nederland has lowered its average rushing yards allowed per game each year to 131.5 yards per game this season, a spot they haven’t come near since 2004.
All of that starts up front. It’s a group effort, as Korbin Stampley and Jordan Wood make tackles left and right while Sage Seay gets timely pass rushes and the other Nederland secondary members support the run extremely well.
What the Nederland defensive front can do, though, is get pressure without blitzing. That’s evident in the group’s collective 31 sacks and 68 tackles for a loss. It’s evident in their size, as the group is about 6-2, 270 across the board.
“We’ve had some size, but I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a group whose stature matches this group,” Neumann said. “When you combine all that, you should get a high level of performance. They have to be committed to being students of the game, which they are. But, having the size and athleticism they have, with their camaraderie and focus, when you have all that going, you have a really, really high level."
Maybe we’re overthinking this nickname business. Maybe we should keep it simple and go with a little Cassius Clay. Maybe, just maybe, this group is, as far as Nederland history goes, the G.O.A.T.
For those of you who don’t date back to when heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali went by Cassius Clay, G.O.A.T . would be Greatest Of All Time.
David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org